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Owen Power Brings Big-Game International Experience, Confidence to Canada's WJC Team

Buffalo's first pick in 2021 skipped the last World Junior Championship, but a lot has changed in the past year. Now, he'll be counted on in a big way to return Canada back to the top step of the medal podium.
Owen Power

The 2021 World Junior Championship experience was a unique one, to say the least.

With COVID-19 preventing players from playing proper, full seasons, Hockey Canada elected to run training camp for a full month to get its team up to speed as quick as possible. But for players on teams that were active, that meant missing a large chunk of the regular season to participate in practice. 

That didn't make sense to Owen Power, the top prospect from the 2021 draft. He and the University of Michigan elected to keep him in school instead of missing close to a third of the NCAA season with no true guarantee as to whether he'd make the team. Of course, camp had a two-week closure due to positive COVID-19 cases, which would have stung even more.

So, in the end, Power got the proper college hockey experience without any interruptions. It meant Power couldn't represent his country, but he, and his team, thought it was the best thing for his development and goal of becoming the first player selected later that season.

And he ultimately was - and he still managed to win gold with Canada at the men's World Championship later that year, so it wasn't a total flop on the international side.

Power has the unique situation of playing for Canada's men's World Championship team before playing at the U-20 level. Power emerged to become one of the top players in the tournament near the end despite being one of the youngest players. Canada got off to an 0-3 start before eventually going all the way to win gold, and overcoming that adversity is something Power believes can be used to his advantage this year.

"That tournament, we kind of get off to a rough start, but it worked, just kind of trusting the process," Power said.

Power made the final 25-man roster that'll head to Edmonton later this month, to nobody's surprise. Power should be one of Canada's most important players, and it's a challenge he'll have no issue living up to. In many scout's eyes, he's playing better than expected at Michigan, and any naysayers seemed to have fallen in love with his play with Canada's men's team in the spring.

Power, 19, will only have one chance to win gold with Canada in an official IIHF junior setting. He never got the chance to play at the U-18s, so his only other junior-aged experience came in the Hockey Canada-sanctioned U-17 World Hockey Challenge in 2018. That's not uncommon for players who take the NCAA route, but Power is no ordinary prospect, as seen by his 23 points in 18 games this year.

The world juniors will be a bit of a party for Power and his Michigan teammates. On USA alone, Matthew Beniers, Luke Hughes, Jacob Truscott, Thomas Bordeleau and Mackie Samoskevich are all vying for spots. Kent Johnson missed camp with Canada this past week, but was named to the final roster. 

Power cited confidence in his own game as a sophomore as something that has improved in his game over the past year, and it shows. Power sometimes hesitated to make a risky play early on in his NCAA days, but that's not an issue anymore.

“Owen Power’s hockey ability and being first overall speaks for itself,” Team Canada coach Dave Cameron said. “The interesting thing about it for me is the route he took. That says something about a young man that he has things in perspective, things in balance. He’s a confident man because he knows he’s going to be a long-time NHL player, and he realized that there’s no rush to get into that."

Power likes to watch players like Victor Hedman, Adam Fox and Roman Josi, with Hedman - particularly due to his size (Power is 6-foot-6) - being the best comparable. Hedman was a pretty darn good junior player in his time - and Power commands that type of excellence at his age, too. The big defender has a tendency to be the most physically and offensively dominant defenseman in a game, and that could come in handy on the smaller NHL-sized ice surface that many players on the rest of the teams haven't experienced in a meaningful fashion.

It won't be long until Power is patrolling Buffalo's blueline - it very well could be next fall, and probably should be. Power might have been the first No. 1 pick since Erik Johnson in 2006 to not go straight to the NHL, but it's not due to a lack of talent. As one scout put it in regards to Power's upcoming appearance at the juniors, "He's a man playing a kid's game" - and while it might sound a bit cliche, it at least feels true after watching him thrive.

Now let's see if he can get it done when the games really start to matter.



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